By | 1 August 2015

A small remark, almost unnoticed,
then not quite believed, like those false
pools the late afternoon heat makes

on the road you (for there is, it turns
out, a you here, and a setting, let’s
make it sun) are driving into dusk

time-wise, albeit away from dusk
geographically, moving east from
the mountain, trying to keep to the tip

of the peak’s shadow, which in a more
fanciful mood you might regard
as a hand reaching out for you,

though not the kind of personification
you particularly like in a poem,
not this late in the game. At any rate,

this remark, when it slipped into
existence, when she gave birth
to it there between you, held itself aloft

in your thoughts, like a moon
risen in the sky of your mind and which
you saw as though you’d never seen

it rise before. It seemed incongruous
among the other thoughts—the ones
about you, the ones in her head, that is,

the ones you’d invented about you
for her head—incongruous like an old couch,
beer-brown with a permanent ditch

carved into the far left cushion, amid
the matching soft-light white of the others,
the kind of couch a new husband naively sees

as inviting and friendly and so insists
at first on keeping in a place of prominence,
or rather he keeps insisting, but fails

and then it’s down to the cellar
to sleep the sleep of the past. (A bit
of a stereotype, which though unfair

is familiar enough that we might
meet on common ground, you and I.)
Anyway, just before she made

this remark, you had been so taken
with her—that is, taken with
her notions of you or, rather, taken

with your notion of her notions
of you—that it did not seem out
of the question that someday you

might give up the old couch, let it
sink a level in the house, a house you
might one day paint together,

an off-white to cover up the lives lived
there before you; you could see that
she was the kind to get a smudge

of paint there off-center on her chin,
which you imagined you might be called
on to remove, but then her remark slapped you

into the present, which itself now thankfully
is safely becoming the past, falling mile
after mile into the shadow catching up

with you, a shadow that now seems less like
a hand and more like memory itself (again,
though, not a comparison you’d normally find

fetching). For it was the kind of remark
not worth recalling or believing,
better left in the dim basement

of memory, beneath the old paint blanket,
the splatter-guard that covers so many
offenses, the botched junior prom date

with Marlie, the stumbling admission
of virginity (yours, I fear—I’m starting
to feel sorry for you), the whole summer

camp underwear incident—but why dredge
it all up, the stiff blanket of embarrassment
covers these offenses, the way paint slaps

pesky imperfections from the molding, or
a shadow masks the potholes in the road, or
the earth’s atmosphere gives the dead, airless

moon a kind of friendly, bon vivant
appearance, which is not at all the type
of description you favor in a poem,

not this late, driving to who knows what
metaphor you’re capable of, under cover
of, for Christ’s sake, the second person,

a mirage you’ve never favored because
you drive up and it disappears, as the day
does to dark, which is the convenient,

comfortable blanket beneath which we sleep,
you and I, even while driving, even in daylight,
every damned day of our peaceful lives.

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